Arsenic contamination of Bangladesh paddy field soils: implications for rice contribution to arsenic consumption.

Andrew Alexander Meharg, M.m. Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

836 Citations (Scopus)


Arsenic contaminated groundwater is used extensively in Bangladesh to irrigate the staple food of the region, paddy rice (Oryza sativa L.). To determine if this irrigation has led to a buildup of arsenic levels in paddy fields, and the consequences for arsenic exposure through rice ingestion, a survey of arsenic levels in paddy soils and rice grain was undertaken. Survey of paddy soils throughout Bangladesh showed that arsenic levels were elevated in zones where arsenic in groundwater used for irrigation was high, and where these tube-wells have been in operation for the longest period of time. Regression of soil arsenic levels with tube-well age was significant. Arsenic levels reached 46 mug g(-1) dry weight in the most affected zone, compared to levels below 10 mug g(-1) in areas with low levels of arsenic in the groundwater. Arsenic levels in rice grain from an area of Bangladesh with low levels of arsenic in groundwaters and in paddy soils showed that levels were typical of other regions of the world. Modeling determined, even these typical grain arsenic levels contributed considerably to arsenic ingestion when drinking water contained the elevated quantity of 0.1 mg L-1. Arsenic levels in rice can be further elevated in rice growing on arsenic contaminated soils, potentially greatly increasing arsenic exposure of the Bangladesh population. Rice grain grown in the regions where arsenic is building up in the soil had high arsenic concentrations, with three rice grain samples having levels above 1.7 mug g(-1).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-234
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number2
Early online date20 Nov 2002
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • drinking-water
  • districts


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